3.31.2015

Saying Goodbye and Saying Hello

guinea pig kisses


Some of you may have already seen the news on Instagram, but last Friday we had to say goodbye to our Molly-pie.  On Wednesday, we noticed she was a bit lethargic and not really moving much beyond walking to her water bottle or her food dish.  She was also having trouble supporting her weight, choosing to lie down next to her food dish rather than stand and eat.  We thought she was uncomfortable because of how large the masses in her lymph nodes had become but nothing seem to be causing any obvious pain so we decided to observe her for a day or two before calling the vet.  When I had my lunch break Wednesday, I took her out of her cage for some snuggles and a little time on her pillow.  I just had a feeling we didn't have much time left together.  Throughout this process, I've been hoping for "just one more week" but at this point my hopes turned to "just one more day."  She was still interacting and happily giving piggy kisses, but I could tell she was not feeling well.  I also noticed she had a mucus-y discharge coming from her nose, something I instinctively knew was not a good sign.


By Thursday, she barely came out of her igloo and only nibbled a bit here and there on her food.  Thursday evening, we noticed she was having trouble breathing and making a wheezing sound when inhaling.  Her little body was struggling just to get oxygen.  We cuddled her Thursday night and told her to just hang on for one more day, promising to call the vet first thing in the morning.  I barely slept that night and even check on her a few times, just to make sure she was still with us.  I called the vet as soon as the office opened and they had one appointment left that afternoon.  As the day progressed, so did her decline.  She went from nibbling a little bit on a blueberry to fully turning away from food and whimpering when I picked her up from her cage.  I knew my sweet girl was in pain.

The vet examined her and discovered the cancer had spread aggressively to her lungs, causing them to fill with fluid.  If left on her own, she would suffocate from the fluid build-up within a day or two.  Our mantra throughout this process has basically been, "As long as she's not suffering, we'll do anything to give her as good a quality of life for as long as possible."  The vet told us there was nothing more we could do for her.  She was past the point of medical intervention and she was most definitely suffering.  It was exactly ten weeks from the initial cancer diagnosis.  We knew what we had to do, but it didn't make the decision any easier.

The vet asked if we wanted to be present for the euthanasia process and The Husband and I both said yes without hesitating.  There was no way we were going to leave Molly alone in her final moments.  The vet walked us through the process step-by-step.

"I'm giving her the inhalant to put her to sleep and stop her breathing."

"Her breathing has stopped."

I held back the tears as best I could but it was no use.  I stroked her little nose as the vet said, "Next, I'm going to give her a shot to stop her heart."  And a minute or two later, "Her heart has stopped beating.  At this point, she has passed."

The vet gave us some privacy and told us we could stay in the room with her for as long as we needed.  I didn't want to leave her side and could've stayed in that office stroking her little nose for the rest of the day, but I knew we had to let her go.  We left the office empty-handed and broken-hearted.

We had another little guinea pig at home who needed attention and affection to help her through the loss of her companion, too.  Gia was very attached to Molly and had never really been apart from her for an extended period of time.  The vet told us Gia would need time to process and grieve the loss, too, and that we should monitor her behavior and eating.  Many guinea pigs have been known to stop eating after losing their companion and often die shortly thereafter from what is essentially a broken heart.  The vet recommended giving Gia a few days to see how she does, but strongly advised us to consider getting her another companion within the week.  It felt way too soon for me but if it's what Gia needed to cope, we'd do it.

That night, we let Gia have her dinner out in the living room with us rather than in her cage.  She didn't seem too upset at first, though we did notice her peeking in the igloos every now and then looking for Molly.  She was doing okay through the weekend but I started noticing a change in her eating by Sunday evening.  Rather than digging right in when I gave her food, she'd pause and look around a bit, as if waiting for Molly to join her.  We realized Gia hadn't eaten a meal alone since she was three months old.  Molly had always been right by her side and she was starting to notice her piggy sister was no longer there.

By Monday morning, Gia lost all interest in food.  Normally, she's waiting by her dish every morning and gets so excited for breakfast she'll start popcorning or running around her cage.  But yesterday, she didn't even come out of her igloo.  I tried to coax her out with blueberries and strawberries, her two favorite things, but to no avail.  She sat in her igloo for hours until, on my lunch break, I took her out to sit with me in the living room.  Even then, she went into her little cuddle cup and just laid there, showing no interest in her toys or the various yummy treats I offered her.  The only time she perked up and ate a little bit was when I played a video for her of Molly squeaking and purring.  The sudden decline in her energy and appetite was pretty shocking so we decided we'd introduce her to a new friend that night when The Husband came home from work.

We'd already picked out a little baby guinea pig who seemed like a good match personality-wise so we crossed our fingers and hoped the introduction would go well.  We first let Gia discover the newcomer, who was in a separate cage in a separate room, all on her own.  She was very curious about this new critter in the house and they even greeted each other with a little nose kiss through the cage.  We took them out to neutral territory -aka, the hallway- and let them meet face-to-face.  Much to our surprise, Gia was delighted to get to know her new friend!  After just a few minutes, the two were sharing toys, chasing each other in circles, and Gia even started purring and popcorning again.  There wasn't even a hint of aggressive or territorial behavior.

guinea pigs meeting for the first time


For me, it's far too soon to have a new guinea pig.  I'm still grieving the loss of Molly and sometimes wake up sad just thinking about her.  She was my first little baby, my best friend, my workmate, my companion, my sweet piggy girl.  My heart still aches for her and I have a feeling a little part of me always will.  But Gia lost her companion, too.  Gia needs a friend to help her through this time just like The Husband and I need each other.  So, for Gia's sake, we've welcomed the newest piggy into our home and our family and will honor Molly's memory by giving her a happy, healthy life, filled with lots of blueberries, of course. ♥

xo

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3.27.2015

Friday Four

1  //  Last weekend, The Husband and I explored a new neighborhood not too far from us.  Bernal Heights.  We started off with a hike around Bernal Heights Hill, then had lunch at Bernal Star.  Their delicious brunch/lunch menu made it really hard to choose just one item but when I saw they could make the burgers with a gluten-free bun, the decision was made.  Afterwards, we walked around the main strip and found a few other restaurants we want to go back and try (they're only open for dinner, otherwise I may have been tempted into a second lunch...).  We also discovered a new shop, The Epicurean Trader, and ended up buying some yummy cheeses and a banana-honey peanut butter that has been topping my gluten free waffles all week.  I'm excited to go back after Easter and pick up some of those pretty chocolate bars, too!

bernal heights photos




2  //  My wedding season officially kicks off this weekend!  I haven't shot a full wedding since November so I'm looking forward to spending the day with these two and capturing lots of little moments of love tomorrow.

engagement photos at crissy field




3  //  I'm officially in the third and final trimester of this pregnancy!  I hit 28 weeks this week (some sources say 27 is third trimester, some say it's 28 - it's so confusing) so we're counting down the next 12 until we find out whether this little human kicking me all day long is a boy or a girl.  Overall, the second trimester wasn't that bad.  Other than the stuffy nose and the occasional back aches, it was much more pleasant than expected.  Things are already starting to feel a little tight and uncomfortable though (seriously, where is everything going to go over the next 12 weeks?  I feel like I'm already running out of room!) so I have a feeling the "pleasant" days of pregnancy are coming to an end.

progression of pregnancy in second trimester




4  //  This one is a little sad to report.  Molly's health seems to have taken a turn in the last few days.  Just two days ago, she happily came out of her cage to hang out with Gia and give lots of guinea pig kisses in exchange for some blueberries.  But now, she's not really moving around much and she's not eating either.  She still wants food, but it seems difficult for her to eat and after a few bites, she stops.  The lymph nodes under her neck and back legs are significantly larger than they were just a few days ago so we're concerned that's was causing her to have trouble eating.  It completely breaks my heart because she's just not herself right now.  Even when she was having trouble walking a few weeks ago, she would still perk up when I talked to her, responding with little chuts and squeaks and purrs, get excited for food, and have no trouble eating or drinking.  Now, she's not very vocal and mostly just quietly lays in her little igloo.  She has a vet appointment for this afternoon but it's not looking good.  All we can really do for her right now is cuddle her and tell her how much she's loved.

guinea pigs on bed



Please keep my little piggy love in your thoughts today.  She has put up such a strong fight thus far but I fear she may not be with us much longer. :(

guinea pig photos


xo

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3.24.2015

Bloom Retreat Photo Shoot | Walnut Creek

Earlier this year, I did a photo shoot for Bloom Retreat, a yoga studio and workspace here in the Bay Area.  The photos were primarily for their Self Love Challenge, a 28-day challenge organized by the studio's founder, Michelle, that encourages you to take a little time for yourself -even if it's just 5 minutes- everyday for the entire month of February.  The challenge included things like Read a Good Book, Have a Girls' Night, and Indulge in What Makes You Feel Sexy (lipstick on a weekday maybe?).  Michelle has a new, more in-depth 8-week online program, Becoming Grace, which begins at the end of this month for women who feel they've lost their sense of self.  In Michelle's words, "Becoming Grace is a guide to help you become your true self.  The 8-week journey leads you back into your desires and helps you find your voice, find confidence in your decisions, feel good in your body, and celebrate both the grace and grit in your life. We do this through teaching modules, weekly practices and meditations, weekly live community calls plus Q & A with me, and a supportive community of women to hold you as you unravel into who you truly are."

Now, about those photos... :)  A lot of our session focused on yoga poses and reconnecting with your physical and emotional self, but I also captured a few shots around the studio as well as some head shots of Michelle at the very end.  The studio is a gorgeous, serene, peaceful space to sit and catch up with friends or just have a few moments to yourself while reading or writing.  It was a joy being in such a lovely space for the afternoon and working with Michelle.  The space felt very Anthropologie-inspired, but in an approachable and homey way.  If I lived just a little bit closer, I'd be settling in to do work at one of the lovely window seats at least a few afternoons a week!  If you're ever in the Walnut Creek area, I highly recommend checking it out!

Bloom Retreat Walnut Creek
Bloom Retreat Walnut Creek
Bloom Retreat Walnut Creek
Bloom Retreat Walnut Creek
yoga portraits
yoga portraits
yoga studio portraits
creative yoga studio portraits
creative yoga studio portraits
creative athletic women's photography
creative athletic women's photography
creative athletic women's photography
creative athletic women's portraiture
creative athletic women's portraiture
creative athletic women's photography
Bloom Retreat Walnut Creek
Bloom Retreat Walnut Creek
Bloom Retreat Walnut Creek
Bloom Retreat Walnut Creek
creative women's photography
creative women's photography
creative women's photography
silhouette of woman putting on makeup
nontraditional head shots for women
glamour head shots for women
Styling: Melanie Kluger
Hair & Makeup: Melissa Hoffman

PS - If you want more info on Bloom's upcoming online course, click here!

xo

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3.20.2015

Happy Friday | This Week's Blooms

It's officially Spring!  Even though it's been warm and spring-like here in California for some time now, I'm sure today is a day most other people around the country have been looking forward to with much anticipation.  The days are just a little longer, the sun is just a little warmer, and the earth is starting to come alive again with all sorts of greenery and blossoms.  I love having fresh flowers in the apartment year-round but it's especially awesome in the spring because there are so many lovely blooms to choose from each week.  As I was browsing the seasonal standards -tulips and daffodils and calla lilies- in the Trader Joe's flower section the other day, something a little crazier caught my eye.  The intricate details and bright colors of the quirky Pincushions were just too cool to pass up.  And, of course, I had to photograph them too.  Flowers make the perfect subjects.  So, in honor of the first day of Spring, here are this week's blooms to brighten up your day and welcome you into the weekend.

orange and pink pincushion flowers
orange and pink pincushion flowers
orange and pink pincushion flowers
orange and pink pincushion flowers
orange and pink pincushion flowers
orange and pink pincushion flowers
orange and pink pincushion flowers
Any big plans for the first weekend of spring?  Wedding season for me starts next weekend (yay!) so I'm hoping The Husband and I can get outdoors for a little hike and maybe explore a new neighborhood here in town before the pre-baby wedding season craziness kicks into high gear. :)

Happy Friday!
xo

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3.19.2015

Awkward & Awesome | Pregnancy Edition

26 weeks pregnant


AWKWARD
1 \\  There are so many random pregnancy symptoms that no one really warned me about beforehand.  The stuffy nose being the worst.  It's basically impossible to breath when laying down and you know what you have to lay down to do?  Sleep.  Last night, I snore/snorted so loudly I woke myself up.  Why?  BECAUSE I COULDN'T BREATHE!!  My mouth was totally parched from the mouth-breathing and I've woken up with dry/cracked lips so often I've lost count.  Saline nasal sprays help, but they don't completely cure the problem.  And nasal strips were working for a little while but after a few days of wearing them every night, I started breaking out on my nose exactly where the strips went.  At one point, I had three little pimples all in a perfect line right across the bridge of my nose.  Lovely.

2 \\  Watching the numbers on the scale continue to rise can be very scary.  I know it's all for a good reason and I haven't really been obsessing about it (at least, not as much as I know I could be) but I've maintained roughly the same weight for most of my adult life -minus freshman year of college ... let's not go there- so seeing those numbers creep up on a weekly basis is strange.  At least, I think it's strange.  I can't actually see the numbers over my belly now but I do a quick "lean forward to check but try not to fall over" after each weigh-in.  After gaining exactly nothing until week 16, I've been averaging about 1.5 lbs increase a week since then, but that's definitely not consistent.  Some weeks there's no change at all and some weeks I've gained as much as 5 lbs in just seven days.  Talk about awkward.

3 \\  Clothes.  The bane of my existence right now.  I've reached a point now at roughly seven months pregnant where I wear more maternity clothes than regular clothes but still occasionally fit into a 'regular' outfit, mostly maxi dresses and loose-fitting tops.  But I also seem to be in between maternity sizes because some things are just a tad too tight for comfort while the next size up will fit around the belly but be too loose in the chest.  I've just decided to go for things that are on the bigger side because, at the rate I'm expanding, they'll most likely fit in a week or two anyway.  And then be too tight another week after that.  Yippee.

AWESOME
1 \\  As awkward as the belly is for me, other people seem to really like it/respond well to it.  The other day I was running errands downtown and met up with The Husband for a quick coffee (yes, I'm still drinking coffee).  As I was walking to his office, I passed by the SF Art Institute where a bunch of students were hanging out outside.  Out of nowhere I hear one of the girls shout, "Aw, how cute!!!  Baby on the way right there!  Look!!!"  Not realizing she was talking about me, I looked around to find out who the obviously-pregnant lady was on the sidewalk and noticed I was basically surround by a bunch of dudes in business suits and tech wear (aka hoodies and skinny jeans).  It was me!  I was the obviously-pregnant lady she was referring to!  Hey, at least she said I was cute...

2 \\  People are really nice to you when you're pregnant.  Seriously, if you ever doubted whether chivalry still exists in the world, get knocked up and see for yourself.  People open doors for you, give you their seat on the bus, pick things up for you when you clumsily drop them (which is especially nice because bending over isn't really an option at this point), and just generally smile and soften up around you when they notice the belly.  It's a little sad that it takes being pregnant for strangers to show basic manners but, hey, I'll take it!

3 \\  Feeling the baby move is kind of fascinating to me.  It's a totally weird and foreign sensation and I'm pretty sure I'll never get used to it, but it's also very entertaining.  Baby is super active and has been ever since the beginning.  In fact, our doc had a hard time getting ultrasound photos at our 10-week appointment last fall because Baby wouldn't stop rolling around and moving its little arms and legs.  But now, I can actually feel all those little movements basically any time I'm sitting still.  It's to the point now where it's visible from the outside too, which really blows my mind.  I can't even describe how freaky it is to be editing photos or reading in the evening and see little jerking movements in my abdomen, like it's trying to break free of its watery womb enclosure.  It definitely adds to the feeling of being a walking science experiment but in a way that's actually kind of cool.

xo

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3.18.2015

Diana & LiWei | Lake Merritt Wedding Photography

lace sleeved wedding dressDiana & LiWei met in a way some would say was destined to be.  Diana, a young Mormon dedicated to her church, was serving a mission in the Chinese community here in San Francisco when LiWei caught her eye.  She did her best to resist and focus on the purpose of her work, but she couldn't help but be drawn to him on a deeper level.  As Diana put it during a sweet slideshow at her wedding, she simply fell in love with her convert.


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3.16.2015

Dog Days

The Husband and I had a pretty busy weekend with tax prep and other business stuff, but we managed to squeeze in a little bit of personal time, too.  We went out to dinner Saturday night, just the two of us, fully recognizing that our time to do such things is limited.  I had two of my favorite things: chips & queso, and a steak.  It was glorious and I inhaled it before any thoughts of photos had time to cross my mind.  #sorrynotsorry

On Sunday, after we went out for breakfast just the two of us again (two meals out in a row!), The Husband dropped me off at the shelter for a photo session with some of the dogs currently in foster homes.  Since these pups aren't at the shelter everyday, we had to set aside a specific time to capture their photos for the website.  I thought I'd share some of them with you here because, who doesn't love cute photos of puppies, especially on a Monday?

dogs for adoption family dog rescue
Squirrel.  He's a little shy when meeting new people but once he warms up to you, he'll be your best friend forever.  He lost the only family he's ever known, the ones who raised him from a pup until he was four years old, and now he's looking for someone new to love him forever.  He used to live with kids, cats, and other dogs and was besties with all of them!  He'd be a great addition to any patient home and welcomes lots of cuddles and car rides.

dogs for adoption family dog rescue
Left: Finn.  Finn came to the shelter as a stray, so we don't have a lot of info about his background, but he's a very sweet little 3-year old chihuahua mix who's super smart and super treat-motivated.  With a little patience and some yummy food, his foster mom has fully house-trained him and taught him a few basic commands like Sit and Leave It!  He's also pretty quiet for a small breed and totally knows how to sport a bowtie.

Right: Blondie.  Blondie is a purebred 3-4 year old Pekingese who's fairly new to Family Dog.  She's not shy at all, and will happily roll over for a belly rub once you show her a little attention.  She's sweet, affectionate, and fully aware of just how beautiful she is.  She was one of the easiest dogs for me to photograph yesterday - and she even smiled for the camera!

dogs for adoption family dog rescue
Left: Snowball and Right: Hedgehog.  Snowball and her brother Hedgehog just came to the shelter this week.  They're both pretty large for puppies and will probably grow to be about 40 to 50 pounds.  They're also both very sweet, playful, and affectionate with the cutest spotted bellies and cookies-and-cream patterned faces.  Hedgehog was a little more camera shy than his sis, but he responded well to treats and happily climbed in my lap for some snuggles once I put down the lens.

dogs for adoption family dog rescue
Left: Coco.  Coco is quite the handsome little poodle mix, with a very sweet and loving disposition.  He's deaf, so his training will be focused more on visual cues and yummy food that smells irresistible.  He's super sweet, snuggly, and much prefers sitting in your lap than a silly old chair.

Right: Hermosa.  Hermosa came to the shelter from Tijuana, Mexico where she was found abandoned in a shopping cart with her litter of puppies.  Why someone would discard such a sweet, beautiful little lady is beyond me.  She loves to romp around and play with other dogs as well as all her favorite toys, happily throwing them in the air and chasing them down (the toys, not the other dogs ;)).  She's also very well-mannered, eager to please, and fully potty-trained.  What more could you want in a puppy companion?

All of these furry guys and gals are currently available for adoption so if you're in Northern California and interested in taking one of these little love bugs home with you, you can contact the shelter here.

xo

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3.13.2015

Friday Five

I thought I'd do something a little different this Friday - share a little love to start off your weekend.  Five frames from some recent engagement sessions.

romantic engagement session at moss beach
romantic engagement session at moss beach
romantic engagement session at baker beach
engagement photos at baker beach
sunset engagement session in the presidio

Happy weekend!
xo

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